A Columbia man is in custody, after being charged in federal court for his alleged role in preparations to launch a terrorist attack with people he believed were members of ISIS.
Federal prosecutors say the “ISIS” members were actually undercover law enforcement agents. The suspect allegedly thought the terrorist attacks would take place on Presidents’ Day and would involve buses, trains and a Kansas City train station.
Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, has been charged in a 25-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City. Court documents say Hester is also known as “Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki” and “Junaid Muhammad.” Hester is charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Don Ledford tells Missourinet Hester made his initial court appearance Tuesday morning in Kansas City and remains in federal custody. Ledford says a detention hearing is set for Friday.
U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson, of Missouri’s Western District, praises the FBI for protecting the public.
“First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant (Hester) repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,” Dickinson said in a news release. “He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims. He readily participated in the preparations for an attack, provided materials and resources for an attack, and voiced his intent to carry out an attack. I commend the FBI for protecting the public from a security threat.”
According to the affidavit, the investigation began in September 2016 when multiple confidential sources informed the FBI about Hester’s social media posts, in which he expressed a propensity for violence. According to the complaint, Hester’s publicly available social media posts allegedly included a profile description called “Zionist Jew Pig Redneck Hunting Super Assassin”.
One of the August 2016 posts allegedly stated “Burn in hell FBI”. The court documents also say Hester posted photos of weapons and the ISIS flag.
The court documents indicate that an FBI employee using an undercover identity contacted Hester by private message in October 2016. The court documents quote Hester as saying the U.S. government should be “overthrown” and suggested “hitting the government hard”. Those documents allege that Hester said he wanted a “global jihad.”
The documents say that during a January 31, 2017 meeting, an undercover employee provided Hester with a list of items to purchase, including nine-volt batteries, duct tape, copper wire and roofing nails. The documents quote the undercover FBI employee as indicating they would be used to make bombs. The documents quote Hester as responding: “I’m just ready to help. I’m ready to help any way I can.”
The complaint says that the undercover employee stated that they were planning to “bring them to their knees … and they they gonna know to fear Allah.” Hester is then quoted as saying: “I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”
Court documents say the undercover employee met with Hester again on February 1, telling Hester they were planning something “10 times more” than the Boston Marathon bombing”. The documents say Hester expressed his approval.
During a later meeting, the documents say the undercover employee stated they would put backpacks in different locations. Hester reportedly indicated they had to be smarter than the Boston Marathon bombers.
The court documents say Hester is a U.S. citizen who enlisted in the Army in 2012. The complaint says that Hester was cited “for numerous violations of U.S. Army regulations” during advanced individual training, and that Hester received a general discharge from service in 2013.
The documents say that Hester talked to an undercover employee about accessing military bases, “identifying a Missouri base by name.” The documents do not name the base.